June 1, 2010
By Kathy Dondzila
Actor and avid pilot Harrison Ford shared his love of flying with members of the congressional general aviation caucuses on Capitol Hill in April and discussed the importance of GA to economic development, humanitarian efforts, and medical services. In a discussion with AOPA President Craig Fuller, caucus members, and industry leaders, Ford stressed the importance of sharing aviation with the next generation of pilots and preserving the American freedom to fly.
“America has a great legacy of aviation,” Ford said. “We’ve led the world in aviation for much of its 100-year history.”
Ford volunteered to be the spokesman of the General Aviation Serves America campaign to help communicate the importance of GA to the nation. A year later, House and Senate GA Caucuses are spreading understanding of GA in the halls of Congress while joint industry efforts spread the word to the public.
Co-chairs Allen Boyd (D-Fla.) and Vernon Ehlers (R-Mich.) formed the House GA Caucus one year ago to help teach their colleagues more about GA (see “ GA in the Halls of Congress”). The caucus has grown to 116 members. The Senate version, formed by co-chairs Mark Begich (D-Alaska) and Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) has grown to 29 members.
Ford, the former honorary chair of the EAA Young Eagles program, is mindful of the need to interest children in flying, “We have to continue to build people’s interest in aviation so that we have new pilots coming in.”
Boyd asked Ford about his favorite aircraft for recreational flying. Ford said his airplanes each have their purpose., but, he added, “The de Havilland Beaver has got a special place in my heart.” Ford flew the Beaver on-screen in the film Six Days Seven Nights.
Ford will go back to filming a new movie in June: Cowboys and Aliens. But he won’t give up flying for the shoot, even though production companies oftentimes impose restrictions on actors’ activities while filming. “Since the very beginning I’ve been anxious to preserve the ability to fly while I’m making a film,” he said. “A pilot that’s not flying is at a safety disadvantage, and I like to keep flying.” Ford’s efforts in the public eye and on Capitol Hill are helping to ensure that pilots across the nation can do the same.
Following a multi-year evaluation, the FAA announced that it will allow special issuance medical certification for pilots who take four common medications for certain types of depressive disorders. The agency will consider for all classes of medical certification the use of Fluoxetine (Prozac), Sertraline (Zoloft), Citalopram (Celexa), or Escitalopram (Lexapro).
The FAA has also announced in a separate Federal Register notice a one-time, six-month opportunity for airmen to disclose to the FAA previously unreported depression and use of antidepressant medications without being subject to FAA enforcement action.
The FAA conducted an extensive review of literature assessing the risks and benefits of antidepressant usage. It evaluated the experiences of Transport Canada and the Civil Aviation Safety Authority in Australia, both of which have allowed antidepressant use in the cockpit for years.
Applicants for first, second, or third class medical certification will be considered for diagnoses of mild to moderate depressive disorders such as major depressive disorder (mild to moderate) either single episode or recurrent episode; dysthymic disorder; and adjustment disorder with depressed mood.
The process for obtaining a special issuance will include annual monitoring by a board-certified psychiatrist to assure compliance with medication usage, side effects, or new symptoms. The special issuance will be determined on a case-by-case basis, considering several factors, which are detailed in AOPA’s subject report on the topic.
State lawmakers recently got a chance to take the controls and fly over the National Mall—virtually—at a Washington, D.C., event. More than 200 state legislators and staff from across the nation came together following the National Conference of State Legislatures 2010 Spring Forum to find out more about the excitement, utility, and economic importance of GA. Many got a taste of the excitement in a full-motion Redbird flight simulator.
“With the amazing Redbird simulator we can not only tell legislators about the vast network of GA airports in and around their district, but we can actually show them as we fly over. We really got these legislators thinking positively about GA in their states,” said AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Mark Kimberling.
AOPA sponsored the event, with GAMA, the NATA, the National Association of State Aviation Officials, and NBAA. AOPA’s regional representatives, who were in town for their annual spring meeting, took the opportunity to build relationships with lawmakers who influence aviation-related legislation in their areas.
The association continues to meet with state decision-makers and monitor aviation-related legislation in all 50 states; the event aids in these efforts and had the additional benefit of allowing legislators to experience the allure of flight for themselves.
After a bruising battle over a proposed aircraft excise tax increase, the Washington state legislature has approved a tax revenue bill—without the controversial tax increase.
Lawmakers had proposed a 0.5-percent annual excise tax on aircraft based in the state—an increase that would have created the highest registration rates in the nation for most types of aircraft. AOPA worked with the Washington Pilots Association, the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA), and other aviation groups in the state to fight the tax from its introduction all the way through a special session called to hash out the details of tax proposals.
The Senate several times had previously approved a version of the budget bill that did not include the aircraft excise tax hike, but lawmakers in the House had re-inserted the proposal in their version of the bill. The House finally approved a conference committee report April 11 that does not include the increase. The Senate approved the report April 12 by a vote of 25 to 21 and Gov. Chris Gregoire signed it into law on April 23.
AOPA Vice President of Airports and State Advocacy Greg Pecoraro said AOPA members’ involvement in the issue explaining the impact of the new tax and the value of general aviation was a key part of the aviation community’s success in fighting the tax.
“Our members were great,” he said. “They reached out to their legislators with a series of compelling messages that played an enormous role in giving the Senate pause and keeping the tax out of the final budget package.”
Tennessee’s economy realizes close to $6 billion annually as a result of aviation activity. Gov. Phil Bredesen recognized the importance of general aviation to the state by proclaiming April General Aviation Appreciation Month in the Volunteer State. The proclamation cites the nearly 100,000 jobs that result from economic activities directly or indirectly related to aviation, creating nearly $2 billion in wages and salaries, and the importance of GA to the future growth and prosperity of the state.
It’s a scenario repeated all too often at air carrier airports across the country—general aviation tenants being squeezed out in favor of the airlines. This time, it’s happening to pilots at Reno-Tahoe International. But AOPA is working to buck the trend and ensure that GA pilots continue to have access to the airport and its services.
The Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority has announced that, effective July 1, it will manage hangars currently operated by Jet West and Sierra Aviation for the next two years while new GA hangars are being built at Reno/Stead Airport.
On April 19, AOPA wrote to Krys Bart, president and CEO of the Reno-Tahoe Airport Authority, to express opposition to the plan. The association is concerned that the airport authority is not renewing existing fixed-base-operation leases and is reducing the services available to general aviation pilots. AOPA Vice President of Local Airport Advocacy Bill Dunn will be meeting with Reno officials and the Washoe County Commissioners in June to discuss the value of GA operations at the airport and a need for balance between GA and airline operations.
After a previous attempt to remove the current exemption failed, Gov. Deval Patrick again included a provision in his budget proposal this year that would make aircraft subject to the state’s 6.25-percent sales tax. AOPA, the Massachusetts Airport Management Association, the Massachusetts Business Aviation Association, and other industry stakeholders again worked with key legislators—led by aviation caucus chair Rep. Donald Humason—to emphasize the role of the tax exemption in drawing aviation businesses and economic activity to the state, and to reaffirm the potential detrimental effects of removing the exemption. In a victory for the aviation community, the Massachusetts House Ways and Means Committee chose not to include the proposal in the House budget, and the Senate is expected to follow—making it likely that the governor’s proposal will, once again, not make it back to his desk when he signs the budget into law.
For the past few legislative sessions, AOPA has worked to stave off proposals to excessively increase the state excise tax on avgas—most recently in the legislature’s ‘lame duck’ session following the elections last year. Well, the legislature is at it again, as Rep. Gabe Leland introduced House Bill 5773 to increase the current excise tax in phases from a flat fee of 3 cents per gallon to 4 percent of the wholesale price of fuel.
“This proposal is flawed and potentially economically detrimental for two principal reasons,” said AOPA Director of State Government Affairs Mark Kimberling. “First, it creates a parallel relationship between fuel prices and the tax level so that pilots get hit hardest when prices are high. In addition, it ignores the fact that Michigan is one of the few states in the nation that also imposes a 6 percent sales tax on fuel that—combined with the proposed increase—would create one of the highest fuel tax rates in the nation.”
Sun ’n Fun is the spring break for pilots, and it brings with it AOPA’s traditional meeting of Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers at Lakeland Linder Regional Airport in Florida. The annual breakfast included speeches by AOPA President Craig Fuller, who thanked the volunteers for their service. Also on the program was Albert Whitted Municipal ASN Volunteer Jack Tunstill, who spoke about how members can become advocates for their own airports. He encouraged airport activists to build support by identifying and engaging the stakeholders at an airport.
The ASN program invites all AOPA members to get engaged in learning about protecting, promoting and defending your airport. Join us for two exciting online opportunities—an interactive Webinar and the opening of our ASN Volunteer Orientation online course to all AOPA members.
On June 10, AOPA’s Airports team will present a Webinar on how pilots can defend against common threats to their airport. Hear success stories from pilot activists and AOPA staff, and learn how participation in the ASN is your airport’s best bet for the future. The webinar will run live twice at 3 p.m. and 9 p.m., EST; register online.
Our ASN Volunteer Orientation online course is now open for public access on the ASN Website. The interactive course tells you what you need to know to become an airport advocate and ultimately an ASN volunteer. Complete the course and get ready to protect your airport!
Remember, while you don’t need to be an ASN volunteer to be an airport advocate, every airport needs a volunteer.
For more information on how you can help support your airport, visit AOPA Online.
The number of gubernatorial races this year. Governors play a key role in shaping GA policy with control over issues such as airport funding, airport land-use protection, and state taxes on aircraft sales, fuel sales, maintenance, and registration fees.
You know AOPA has shirts and caps with the AOPA wings on them, but you may not know that there is an entire AOPA collection of items with the association logo. A wide range of products from clothing to watches to ties, T-shirts and tire gauges—all with the AOPA wings—is available at an all-new Web site.
Together with partner Sporty’s Pilot Shop, AOPA offers unique merchandise for AOPA members. Wallets, ramp pass holders, doormats, and dozens of other items have all been selected to enhance your aviation lifestyle. These products were selected by pilots, for pilots, and the best part is that the proceeds from every sale benefit the work of AOPA. Your T-shirt purchase could help save an airport.
When you buy a product from the AOPA store, you have all the same protections and benefits as buying directly from Sporty’s. That includes a secure server, same-day shipping, and a one-year guarantee on all purchases. What’s more, before you make a buying decision, you can read the product evaluation rankings and comments of other AOPA members about the product you are considering.
Next time you need a birthday present or a Father’s Day gift or just want something for yourself, check out the array of products in the AOPA store. Show off your AOPA member status by wearing and using AOPA products and help promote general aviation. You’re guaranteed to find something you want at The AOPA Store.
Summer is here and for many pilots that means less time on the ground and more time in the air. Unfortunately, in today’s climate for general aviation, every flight you take could put you at risk of violating any one of at least 700 relevant federal aviation regulations that pilots are required to comply with.
Fortunately, as the thousands of AOPA members enrolled in the Legal Services Plan already know, for as little as $33 per year you can enjoy peace of mind every time you fly knowing that if a federal enforcement procedure is yours, you’ll have the best legal advice and support available anywhere. Visit the Web site and find out how the Legal Services Plan has helped your fellow AOPA members.
Don’t put your certificate at risk. Enroll in the Legal Services Plan today, or by phone at 800-USA-AOPA.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is well known for its safety seminars: More than 150 a year are conducted at locations throughout the United States. And now ASF is broadening its spectrum by conducting safety Webinars that can be attended by pilots anywhere in the country.
What is a Webinar? Imagine attending an ASF safety seminar from the comfort of your home. All you need is a computer, one hour of free time, and a comfortable chair. As you sit back and relax, you’ll hear from a panel of experts on the topic at hand. This is not a one-way experience. Grab the chance to use the Webinar’s chat feature to pose questions to the panel, hear their response, and engage in a lively debate with other attendees. Subject matter ranges from safety concerns particular to an event, region, or area in the United States to broader topics such as runway safety and weather.
To take a closer look and learn from a recent Webinar, visit to see a recording of “ Look, Listen, and Live: Tips and Techniques for Avoiding Midair Mishaps.” Air Safety Foundation President Bruce Landsberg leads the discussion with a panel of air traffic control experts on navigating the congested Daytona Beach, Florida, area. Regardless of where you fly, you owe it to yourself to be armed with safety tips offered in this program. As new Webinars are conducted, their recordings will be posted so you can review particulars at your leisure.
If you plan to attend AirVenture in Oshkosh this summer, you will want to pay close attention to the upcoming Webinar on how to tackle flying to Oshkosh safely. Watch for the announcement and registration information in an upcoming ePilot, and check the ASF Web page for updates and scheduled times.
Studying the various aeronautical charts and taking in airspace dimensions and regulations can be a daunting task, especially with the looming pressure of an upcoming checkride or flight review.
That’s why the AOPA Air Safety Foundation has developed airspace flash cards to make it practical, easy, and enjoyable for pilots at any certificate level to absorb critical knowledge and keep the different categories straight. Each card includes a color depiction of the airspace, a description of its characteristics, and a discussion question.
Download the cards to print, and put them in your flight bag for a quick refresher before your next flight review or checkride. Visit the Website for updates when airspace changes occur.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation periodically updates the ASF safety spotlight series online to gather in one place essential courses, quizzes, publications, and links associated with a spotlight topic so you don’t have to hunt for these items throughout the vast ASF Website. And from time to time, a new safety spotlight is launched to emphasize a topic of special interest not previously published. IFR Safety Spotlight is the latest brainchild debuting in the online series. If you are instrument rated or training for the rating, you’ll want to pay close attention to the wealth of information available to help you negotiate instrument flight. Prepare for IFR flight today.
Technical Communications Manager, Kathy Dondzila, joined AOPA in 1990 and is an instrument-rated private pilot.
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